No matter how often we visit the dentist, our teeth are constantly under threat from our diet. We tend to eat more sugar than is good for us, and after every meal, snack or drink containing carbohydrates, food sugars in our mouth are converted by plaque bacteria into acids which attack tooth enamel (its protective layer) for 40 minutes or longer. This can lead to decay spreading down a tooth’s root canal to the nerve, causing inflammation and pain.
As well as decay, toothache can be caused by such things as a cracked filling or fractured tooth, even an abscess, so any type of pain in a tooth or in the gums should always be checked out by a dentist. Aspirin (not for children), paracetamol and ibuprofen can all be effective in treating dental pain if you have to wait for an appointment . Oil of cloves applied to the aching tooth by means of a soaked piece of cotton wool can help numb the pain, too.
To help prevent further attacks of toothache, brush your teeth regularly. The use of dental floss is recommended, as I mentioned when talking about gum disease , and you can also try a dental health gum after eating and drinking. This helps neutralise the teeth-attacking acids and so can help prevent tooth decay. Many millions of people throughout the world now drink artificially fluoridated water and millions more live in areas where the water contains natural fluoride. The addition of fluoride to water supplies is a frequent cause of confusion and controversy. Many people do not realise that some fluoride is naturally present in almost all water supplies and in most foods, so we ingest a certain amount each day. Usually, though, it is not enough to give our teeth as much protection as they need. Fluoridation of the water does not therefore involve adding a ‘foreign’ substance – it is simply a controlled means of adjusting the amount of fluoride to the most beneficial level. Experts now agree that although, as with most things, too much fluoride can be harmful, the recommended amount of one part per million (1 ppm) in the drinking water has no harmful effects.
Fluoride is an active ingredient in many toothpastes and you can buy fluoride drops and tablets over the counter to help protect children’s teeth. So those who are against the addition of fluoride to the water supply ask why we cannot just use these products? The answer is that in order to be most effective, fluoride must be available continuously -during pregnancy for the mother-to-be and, for almost everyone, from birth through to late adolescence, so that it becomes built into the structure of the teeth as they develop and grow. However well-intentioned they may be, few parents could maintain the necessary continuity – giving each of their children a daily dose of fluoride for say 18 years, quite apart from the expense. Fluoride toothpaste, although helpful, only acts on the surface of the tooth, so is not as effective at preventing decay, though very good, nevertheless.
At present about 7,000 sets of dentures are supplied to school-age children in this country each year and one in three adults has no natural teeth left. In the few areas in Britain where the water has been fluoridated for many years – Birmingham is one example – tooth decay amongst children has been reduced by 50% and the number of extractions needed has dropped dramatically. The middle-aged who have lived in fluoridated areas since childhood also have much less decay, so the benefits are lasting.
Although avoiding sugary foods and in-between meal snacks will do much to prevent decay, our teeth are still constantly under attack from acid-producing germs. Teeth with fluoride built into their substance are undoubtedly better equipped for the fight. The earlier additional fluoride can be given, the better – preferably from soon after birth in the form of drops. Fluoride tablets can be taken when a child is older and should, ideally, be continued all the time that milk teeth and permanent teeth are growing. Dosage of drops and tablets will depend on the child’s age and how much fluoride is present in the local drinking water, so consult your dentist or pharmacist first.
Dentogen Clove Oil Liquid, Dentogen Ibuprofen Tablets, Endekay Dental Health Gum, Endekay Fluoride Tablets and Drops, Oil of Cloves
For toothache: ‘Own brand’ Oil of Cloves. For adding fluoride: Endekay Tablets and Drops